Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Guest Contributor: The Business of Baking!

Once again please welcome our guest contributor:
Michelle Green from The Business of Baking!

Home Based Business
by Michelle Green

Earlier this month I wrote an article about some things to think about when considering opening a store front, and today I'm going to talk about some things to consider when deciding to keep your business home based. Ultimately a lot of this home versus store choice is based around lifestyle, available space, and what scale you want your business to grow to. Here are a few things to consider about owning a home based baking business.

·       The overheads for running a home based business are generally a lot smaller, because some (not all) of your costs simply won't apply in a home environment. As an example, in order to have an A-frame signon the pavement in front of my store, I had to pay my local council over $250 a year to have it. That expense simply would not exist for a home based business. The bonus to having less overheads is potentially having more profit.

·       It can be a great way to 'test out' if you're wanting a larger scale business. Because home based business are easier to scale (because they are less expensive to run generally) you can test the boundaries of how much work you want or are able to take on. Some people wanting a store start out from home and find it much too overwhelming so they never get to the store stage – it's a good way to test out the “What the heck was I thinking?!” part of it.

·       Kids touch stuff. As do dogs. It can be a challenge to keep your work space as your work space without invaders of the 2 legged or 4 legged kind.

·       Space, or rather a lack of space, will either drive you up a wall or teach you how to work very efficiently.

·      There is a perception (an unfair one) that prices from home-based businesses should be less than those at a store front.

·      Perfect strangers will know where you live. This isn't a big deal, and there are ways to manage it (don't put your whole address on your website) but it's something to think about it. Your privacy becomes,well, less private!

·      Unless you are able to build an entirely separate dwelling or room, there will be strangers wandering into your personal space.

·      Working from home IS a lot more flexible, but that also means it potentially eats into your personal time as well. Working from home requires a fair amount of self discipline.

·       Your family expenses will increase. Yes, I teach you to cost out running costs into your cake prices, but it can be a challenge to then take the money you earn in those cakes and then actually apply that money to those specific bills.  It's much easier to 'hide' those costs in your normal bills (in particular for things like water and power) so this is something to be aware of. For example, are you really going to notice if you use an extra bottle of dish washing detergent every month? Probably not but it's an expense that you would not otherwise have in your family supermarket budgeting.

There are lots of benefits to working from home, and it's a lot less limiting than you might think. So many people cite their major challenge or lack of success as being a home based business, but there are plenty of people making plenty of money from home. I would venture to say that several of your cake idols are happily working from home and happily making a good living from it.  The key to that success isn't being limited by your home base, it's by being inspired by it to come up with creative ways around it, while still maintaining the lifestlye that being home based gives you. 

Copyright 2014 Michelle Green The Business of Baking All rights reserved.

Michelle is a food writer, trained chef and pastry chef with a huge amount of knowledge and helpful insight into running a cake business. She is also the sole author of the blog, "The Business of Baking" -www.thebizofbaking.com.  "The Business of Baking" is specific to the baking and decorating industry and teaches you how to make a real living doing what you love. Michelle started cake decorating at sixteen years old and eventually turned her hobby into a business by becoming a pastry chef, then opening a custom cake business and owning it for ten years. These days, Michelle is an educator, consultant and author who mentors other decorators in business, proving that it's possible to run a business and maintain your sanity at the same time. In 2014 and 2015 Michelle will be teaching live classes all about running a sustainable business. More information on her courses can be found at  www.bizbakeontour.com.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sugar Artist Spotlight: Violet Lin Tran!

I'm so excited to introduce one of my very best cakey friends into the Sugar Artist Spotlight this week! Violet Lin Tran is not only a super talented and creative cake decorator but she is one of the most lovely and kind-hearted ladies I've had the pleasure of meeting in this crazy cake world...and that sweetness shows through in her cake style! Known for her intricate and clean work, Violet's cakes are one of a kind! Here's a little insight into the artist behind the masterpieces! 

Name: Violet Lin Tran
Business Name: The Violet Cake Shop™
Location: Markham, Ontario Canada (outside Toronto)
Facebook name: The Violet Cake Shop™
Website: www.thevioletcakeshop.com

Twitter: @TVioletCakeShop or https://twitter.com/TVioletCakeShop
Blog: www.thevioletcakeshop.wordpress.com
 Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/tcakeshop/


***Please tell us about yourself!*** 
I used to work as a corporate Marketing/Incentives manager at Canada’s largest and oldest telecommunications company until the grind of the rat race just got to me. There was not much of an outlet for creativity in that field and after almost a decade of the old 9-5 (which really ended up being closer to 7-10 most days), I realized it was stifling me creatively and not what I wanted to do. Also, I was wanting to start a family and with the pressures and hours at work, it was just not happening so I decided to make a life change and quit the rat race to start a family. I’ve always been creative in school but never thought of it as a possible factor in the career I’d be in, so the cake decorating chapter of my life is a big surprise to me even to this day, 6 years after my first ever cake!
So now I’m a stay at home mother of two (a 9 year old boy I call “big monkey” and a 2 year old girl I call “lil monkey”) and do cakes on the side for family and friends and their referrals. Before my daughter was born, this hobby had grown to the point that I was doing 3-4 cakes a weekend and after 2 solid years of that, with no breaks, it was becoming a bit of a grind in itself all because I couldn’t say “no” to friends. I then took two years off and didn’t make any cakes save the ones for my kid’s birthdays and a few milestones for friends and I discovered that I need to pace myself or else it’s easy to lose your creative cake mojo. Now that I am taking orders again, I limit myself to only a few a month and allow time to concentrate on special projects and personal cakes. I do this so that I still have some creative freedom with my cake decorating otherwise I start to feel stifled because you are always doing cakes that other people want and fulfilling their vision and sometimes they can be VERY specific. 

***When did you start decorating?***
I made my first fondant cake for my hubby’s big 40th milestone birthday in 2008 and practiced on family cakes after that until I got my first paid cake order in 2009 for a friend’s daughter’s 1st birthday.

***Where did you learn cake decorating?***
I consider myself “internet or community taught”. And although I’ve never taken a class, I never say I’m self-taught because that implies I taught myself everything I needed to know through only my own devices and trial and error but that’s just not entirely the case even though there is LOTS of trial and error involved. There are certain fundamentals that you just cannot “know” on your own. You have to get them from somewhere and I found tons of information and tips from SO many places and I looked everywhere! If there were no YouTube, Google or cake community websites, I would be a total lost puppy! I also watched every cake decorating show that ever aired, even some of the “cheesy” ones and learned a lot from books and magazines.

***Do you have any formal training?***
Nope, no formal training although I did consider taking some Wilton courses about 1-2 years into decorating but at that point, I’d learned all of the basics that I needed, from the cake community websites that it just didn’t seem practical to take a course that would only regurgitate information I already had learned through forums and trial and error. Now, I would love to take some sugar flower, airbrushing and structural cake courses!

***Do you have a signature style?***
I find this a difficult questions to answer since I am always wanting to try new things and rarely like to do the same technique more than a couple of times. So personally I don’t think I have a signature style that is easy to define, but a lot of people have told me they can recognize my work from a mile away or that they like my “signature style” and I always wonder what that is lol. I do know that people tend to comment a lot on my bold and unusual use of colours and lately some of my more modern or geometric cakes have been quite popular. I also am asked to do a lot of kids cakes by friends because we are in that age group so some would say I am known for clean, fun vibrant kids cakes, although those are not my “thing”. I definitely enjoy designing and creating the more sophisticated, modern cakes.

***What inspires you?***
Anything and everything! I once made a wedding cake that had decals on one of the tiers that was inspired by the backs of my dining chairs! Mostly I like patterns and prints, stationary, colours. I like to look through home decorating magazines too as those usually set the trends for what is considered hot in terms of colours and style, be it fresh and modern or vintage chic. And of course, cakes by other cake artists inspire me tremendously. Mostly it’s the colours they use that I fawn over. I guess I am a “colour gal” afterall lol.

***What is your favorite medium or technique to work with?***
I mostly prefer fondant. I cannot smooth buttercream to save my life and I cannot find the smooth sided Viva paper towels in Canada anywhere, to try that method. So buttercream eludes me because I don’t get to practice it. I am loving wafer paper recently though…so versatile and SO many possibilities!

***What is your favorite decorating tool?***
My herb mincer which I use to cut thin strips of fondant. It’s like a bunch of thin pasta wheels in one, spaced about ¼ of an inch apart.

***What is the best class or tutorial that you have taken?***
My favourite ever when I first started decorating and which saved my life at the time, was a YouTube video on how to make a Topsy Turvy cake by jsmith here (I recommend it to everyone!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHY_F53ClJ8

***What is your best tip or trick?***
To colour purple so it doesn’t fade when using gel colours, add in a some extra deep pink or rose to your purples and over-colour it or make it more purple than you want to end up with. There will most inevitably be fading with gel colours especially with exposure to any type of light, so if you have more pink than you want, it will fade but not to an unsightly blue but rather to a purple with a bit less pink. I have a whole post about it on my FB page here (again this is not the ONLY way or necessarily the best way, just what works for me):https://www.facebook.com/95259702360/photos/pb.95259702360.-2207520000.1409743874./10152306119212361/?type=3&theater

***Who is your “Cake Crush”?***

Honestly, everyday it changes and I have SO many and there are different things I love about different artists. If I had to name my top three that are always standouts in no particular order (not that I don’t equally love all my other crushes) it would have to be Kristen Erich of Bliss Pastry for modern chic and unique style plus use of colours, Calli Penman Hopper of Callicious Cakes for her phenomenal hand painting and sugar flower skills (that lady can rock ANYTHING) and Tracey Louise Rothwell of Little Cherry Cake Company (T-Cakes) who has such a signature style like no other, totally love how she is able to incorporate quirky or cute into every cake!

***What is your best advice for a beginner?***
There is not only “one” way to do things. Try them all and develop your own way of doing something if needed. What might work for some, might not work for others and it’s best to do your research and find out all the different ways to do things before your throw in the towel on a technique or skill you are trying to learn. I for one often try something new at least 3-4 different ways before I settle on one that I really prefer. A perfect example is a simple bow - I have tried over 10 different ways to make them and there is one method I prefer now to all the others and it has become a combination of different ones I’ve tried. Another example is making a gumpaste peony - I used at least 3 tutorials before I settled on the method I now use which is again a combination of the ones I’ve tried.

***What is your favorite cake/filling flavor?***
Butter Pound Cake with ganache and my own swiss buttercream recipe

***What is the one decorating tool on your wishlist?***
Realistically, an electric pasta roller. Unrealistically, an industrial sized Somerset sheeter (one can wish right?)

***Tell us some other fun and interesting info about yourself***
Violet really is my favourite colour of all time although it’s not my given name. I was given the nickname by my Junior Kindergarten teacher because I had a Chinese name that she and the other students could not pronounce easily and she’d noticed my favourite crayon was the “Violet” one, so she asked my mom if it was ok for her to use that name in class and it stuck. I actually didn’t even realize it wasn’t my offcial name until I was getting my Driver’s License and had to show my Citizenship papers which only had the English translation of my Chinese name on it. I really wanted my license to say Violet so we had it added! Then I went home and asked my mom why it was not on my Citizenship and she told me the story of how I came to be called Violet! Funny but true!

I am happy to share the news that I will be filming a new series of videos of three of my most recent designs for Pretty Witty Cakes’ On-Line school in November, so you will be able to learn some of my tips and tricks there soon!

I would like to invite your readers to enter my giveaway to celebrate my 100K milestone that is currently running on my page! There are lots of great sponsors and prize packages!!! Here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/n5ug9lq


Thank you Violet!
It was a pleasure to learn more about you!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sugar Artist Spotlight: Gulnaz Mitchell!

Sugar Artist Spotlight: Gulnaz Mitchell!

There is nothing I love more than a fun, happy, eye catching cake and this is why I could spend hours on this cake artist’s Facebook page. Gulnaz Mitchell’s cakes are bold and colorful and always make me smile! I’ve known Gulnaz’s work for quite some time now and have become a huge fan but always wanted to learn more about the artist behind the cake...now is my chance!

Introducing Gulnaz……….

Name: Gulnaz Mitchell
Business Name: Heavenlycakes4you by Gulnaz Mitchell
Location: Katikati, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
Website: http://www.heavenlycakes4you.co.nz/
Twitter: I have a twitter account. But never “twittered” and funny thing, I even forgot the password to my twitter account. 
Blog: I am thinking to start my blog very soon
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/heavenlycakes4u/

***Tell us about yourself ***
I am originally from Russia, Kazan, which is 800 km east from Moscow, where six months of the year it is snow and ice and temperatures drop down to -37C in winter and could be up to 35C in summer. I grew up in “communist” Russia, being a “Pioneer”, which was a youth movement operated by the communist party, a very tough period of communist ideology, when anything “western” was forbidden, during a period when we didn’t have supermarkets full of food and we did lots of home baking. It seems like so long time ago and it’s so different from the life in Russia today. So I’ve got my love for baking from my Mum who is an excellent baker and cook. 
When I was a little girl, I was always thinking how it would be cool to grow up next to the sea and live in a place where it was always nice and warm. Now I live only 100 meters away from the ocean. I moved to beautiful and sunny New Zealand 12 years ago, married and blessed with three beautiful children, two girls and a boy.

***Tell us about your cake business***
I am a home based cake decorator, taking cake orders for around two years now.

***Is there a story behind the name of your business/ How did you come up with your business name?***
Oh, this question! LOL! I wish I was more creative and original with the name for my business. I took the name heavenlycakes4you only because when I was building my website, the name “heavenly cakes” was already taken. Of course, back then I didn’t think much about the originality of the name for the business, as long as it had the word “cakes” in it. I am thinking to rename it very soon.

***When did you start decorating?*** 
I attribute becoming a cake addict to my children - my eldest daughter was diagnosed with Coeliac disease (gluten intolerance) when she was three, when my youngest was only one month old. It was hard to find gluten free treats back then here in NZ, so I decided to bake cakes myself. I only did maybe three cakes a year, because it was hard to do anything when you have three kids under three. When my youngest started full time kindy, I had more time to focus on baking and learning new techniques.

***Where did you learn the art of cake decorating? ***
I am a self-taught decorator, who spent many hours watching Youtube and Craftsy classes, learning from tutorials generously put on the internet and spending time before bed reading cake decorating books. Just recently I’ve been to Margaret Carter’s class on how to make her famous unicorn. So there is still plenty to learn and improve one’s skills.

***Do you have a signature style?***
Bright, happy, warm and colourful – this is my signature style. It’s how I see and feel it and I want people to feel it too. There should be no sadness in sweet sugar creations.

***What is your favorite decorating tool?**
My favorite decorating tools are round cutters, Dresden tool, Bone tool and paint brushes. I am totally in love with cake painting at the moment.

***What decorating tool is on your wish list?***
Oh, I love this question, because my list could be so long!:)). My husband won’t have any trouble thinking about what he should get me for my birthday or Christmas next time! Well, just a couple of thing from my list - Airbrush machine and “Kitchen Aid” (believe me or not I still don’t have one, it’s such a big thing here, because it’s so expensive in New Zealand).

***What is the best class or tutorial that you have taken?***
There are so many great tutorials I’ve watched over the years, but my “eye opener” in cake decorating was Jessica Harris’s video tutorial on how to cover your cake with buttercream and her upside down method. It used to be on her blog, now you can find it on her Craftsy class. www.craftsy.com

***What is your best tip or trick?***
I think my best trick would be that you can create beautiful gumpaste flowers using one round cutter. I have a few tutorials on this topic. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on buying expensive cutters and veiners and there are simple ways to make beautiful flowers.

***Who is your “Cake Crush”?***
Oh, I have so many “Cake Crushes” over the years, Kara fromKara's Couture Cakes and Sarah from The Cake Tin (https://www.facebook.com/TheCakeTin?ref=br_rs) with their gravity defying creations, Verusca Walker and Margaret Carter with their clean sculpted cakes, Kay from Kaykes with her incredible sculpted and airbrushed creations, Violet from The Violet Cake Shop™ with her fantastic party cake designs, Lisa from LM Cake Design (Lisa Templeton From Denheath) with her gorgeous gumpaste flowers. My biggest crush is Neli Josefsen with her unforgettable and absolutely stunning cakes. I always impatiently wait for her next masterpiece. 

***What is your best advice for a beginner?***
Practice, practice and practice! Be patient and don’t be afraid to start your cake again if you’re not happy with it.

***What is your favorite cake/filling flavors?***
My favourite cake is a traditional Russian honey cake with caramel filling (the cake consists of 8-12 separately baked thin layers). 

***Tell us some other interesting, fun info about yourself.***
-I went to special musical school for ten years learning to play piano in Russia, 
-speak three languages, 
-never tried “Burger King” in my life,
- I am talking when I sleep,
-my best design ideas came to me when I suddenly woke up at night,
-I can’t swim freestyle.

***What hobbies or interests do you have outside of caking?***
My biggest hobbies outside caking is fitness, running and weight lifting,
traveling and reading. I also love renovating and redecorating. I already have a project lined up for myself, to redecorate my daughter’s bedroom when I have a break between cake orders. I also help my husband with interior design and colour choices for his business. 


Thank you Gulnaz! It was a pleasure learning more about you! ♥

For more great cakes from Gulnaz head on over to her page. While you’re there check out her Ecwid store too!https://www.facebook.com/pages/Heavenlycakes4you-by-Gulnaz-Mitchell/113619242162187?sk=app_251458316228

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sugar Artist Spotlight: Robin Apted!

Another one of my longtime favorite decorators is Robin Apted! Her cakes have always floored me with their clean, perfect lines and amazing realism! You will be in awe too.....

Introducing.... Robin Apted!

Business Name: Unusual cakes for you
Location: Tasmania Australia
Facebook name/URL: https://www.facebook.com/UnusualCakesForYou
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Unusual_cakes

Instagram: http://instagram.com/unusualcakesforyou

***Tell us about yourself***
I have been with my husband for 24 years.
I always lie about my age
Have 2 sons aged 21 and 22, a daughter aged 7.
2 beautiful daughter in laws and my little grandson is 3.

I am an internet taught cake decorator and have never taken any formal classes.

I used to love sewing but these days the sewing machine is very dusty and doesn’t get a second look
I always take a few months off making cakes for customers each year to allow time for myself to make what I want in sugar and just relax and experiment.
My passion is sugar flowers and birds. I am impatiently waiting for some spare time now to make a few birds and flowers for fun. 

***When did you start decorating?***
I have always made cakes for my kids, although up until 2 years ago they were only the basic cakes that were in woman’s weekly cake books 
2 years ago in August I made my daughters Ariel cake and from there It started, I started my Facebook page and never looked back. (Definitely don’t look back hahhahaha its too embarrassing )

***Where did you learn cake decorating?***
Google and YouTube and along the way I have been fortunate to make friends with some amazing talented decorators that are generous with their help and knowledge

***Do you have a signature style?***
I would like to have one but no unfortunately I don’t think so, I guess I just try to stick to realism as much rather than fantasy

***What inspires you?***
Nature. Every day I see a flower or bird and think god I would love some spare time to try and make that in sugar.

***What is your favorite medium or technique to work with?***
Ganache I only ever use ganache and flowerpaste at the moment I use Menina flowerpaste. I love Platinum Paste but it’s just too expensive to have shipped to Australia

***What is your favorite decorating tool?***
Squires kitchen and Sugar Art studio cutters and veiners. I’m a little obsessed with them all

***What is the one decorating tool on your wishlist?***
Definitely more cutters and veiners from Sugar Art studio and a large dehydrator.

***Best class or tutorial that you have taken?***
I have taken a few Craftsy classes (www.craftsy.com

) and watched dozens of YouTube classes. But none really come to mind, generally I just try to watch a half dozen different YouTube ones and pick bits from each one that I think works best then have a play for myself

***What is your best tip or trick?***
Even if you think you have perfected your technique don’t close your mind to new ideas.

***Who is your “Cake Crush”? ***
Oh wow this is tough, really I don’t just have one. There are so many I admire and each one for a different reason. How can I pick one when there are so many different aspects of cake decorating?
Chistine from La lavande cake boutique for Flowers
Jacinta from Kidacity for jaw dropping figures
Lesley from Royal Bakery for flawless
Peggy from Peggy Does Cake for buttercream perfection
Calli from Callicious Cakes for painting
Faye from Faye Cahill Cake Design for elegance
You Loren because I’m your number one stalker remember 
See now I just gave you 7 and I haven’t even started

***What is your best advice for a beginner?***
1. Don’t compare yourself to everyone else. Use them as inspiration yes and aspire to be as good one day but don’t be harsh on yourself.
2. Have someone that you respect to be honest with their opinion when you ask how does this look . Honest criticism or advice is what makes you grow as an artist. If we all ways receive false praise how do we honestly grow and learn.
3. If you have nothing nice to say don't say it on someone’s business page. And think beyond how the cake looks, even if the design is not your thing, look at the talent and work gone into creating it. 

***What is your favorite cake/filling flavors?***
Jaffa mud cake, orange and lemon curd filling covered with chocolate ganache

***Tell us one “Fun Fact” about yourself***
I’m a ditz and I have an appalling memory. I mean seriously bad like I forget where I park my car at the school every day when I go pick her up or drop my daughter off.

Thank you Robin! It was a pleasure learning more about you!!!

Don’t forget to check out Robin’s video tutorials (some free ones too!)https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpH_QJw4YqR6GkAmfrHUt7g